The city of Denver announced on Monday that it will join fourteen other cities across the country in recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day every year on the day that would normally be celebrated as Columbus Day.
“Our city owes our very founding to the indigenous peoples in Denver,” City Councilman Paul Lopez said after the vote on Monday night. “We do this because our history books erase such history,” Lopez said, adding: “You honor it by making it no longer invisible.”
The city council bill recognizes local native tribes and the lasting devastating impact of colonization on them:
Columbus Day is still a recognized state holiday in Colorado, as it is in 25 other states. Native American activists have been pushing for the day to be abolished nationally and for more cities to recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead.
Historically, Columbus Day marks the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492–a moment which also symbolizes the widespread colonization and decimation of indigenous cultures in both North and South America that followed. Activists say it’s important for the day to be marked as Indigenous Peoples’ Day to acknowledge that history of violent oppression and the ongoing disadvantages and discrimination faced by native people.
While Denver’s decision is a sign of progress, there’s still a long way to go for Indigenous Peoples’ Day to be recognized nationally: just last week, Oklahoma City Council voted for the second time against a bill that would have established a day there.
“Columbus was a murderer, a rapist, a sex trafficker,” David Hill of the American Indian Movement Oklahoma told local station KFOR. “He started those things in America. And these people who want to keep holding him up as a hero, that shows where they’re coming from. That shows who their hero is and that shows they perpetuate racism.”